We told you Engelberg-Titlis was one of Switzerland’s best ski resorts last year. Well this week it’s the world’s snowiest resort too, with a snow depth at the summit of 644cm. That is more than Mt Baker in America at 595cm and Niseko at 515cm or Lost Frontier Heliskiing at 500cm – figures from the Snow-Forecast.com summary. In fact Swiss resorts had 6 or the top 10 spots! So yes, it’s a great time to get over and discover this magnificent resort. Features Editor Bronwen Gora reports.
Engelberg-Titlis is an absolutely spectacular resort region the Swiss love, central Switzerland’s largest winter and summer destination. Despite that it’s still unfamiliar to many international snow travellers. Zermatt, St Moritz and Verbier are far better known to most people.
This stunning historic alpine village and its impressive array of slopes have so much going for them they should be firmly placed on all our snow radars. Engelberg (‘mountain of angels’ ) and Titlis offer so much that virtually every skill level can find what they want here. For a start, the region is filled with dramatic peaks that give Titlis ski field one of the biggest verticals in the European Alps, and longest continuous descents (12km). Snow is excellent with a season that starts as early as October and runs as late as May.
The town of Engelberg is cute, fun and quirky. There is loads to do and see, including a famous 12th century Benedictine monastery where monks still live, work, teach and make cheese, as they have done for hundreds of years.
The town is compact and manageable, too. Everything a visitor needs is in walking distance, making it an ideal choice for families and anyone who wants to self-cater or simply enjoy a low-key ski holiday without battling crowds to fetch your morning coffee and baguette.
Even reaching Engelberg is hassle-free. The village is only a little over an hour by either train from Zurich Airport or car. If arriving by plane, just wheel your luggage straight out of arrivals into the modern train station, descend one floor and step on the next Engelberg-bound train which run on the hour. It’s that simple, putting Engelberg Titlis among the most accessible resorts not only in Switzerland but all of Europe.
The 82 km of pistes cover all bases, ranging from extreme off piste to nursery slopes. Titlis’ main slopes, including the Jochpass and Trubsee areas, lie on one side of town below the 3030m Klein Titlis. On the opposite side is Ristis and Brunnihutte, a mostly intermediate area, perfect for learners, children, families and those who want zero chance of being startled or taken out by fast skiers and boarders.
Modern lifts are another plus for Engelberg-Titlis (as well as terrific on-mountain eateries). The latest is the shiny Titlis Xpress gondola that opened last season. A giant leap forward for Titlis, it cuts ride time from the main base station to the top station of Stand by half. It’s fitted with sleek, black 8-seat cabins each bearing a flag – and yes, one bears the Aussie flag.
From Stand, the lift to the summit is the unusual Rotair gondola – the world’s first with a rotating floor developed to maximize views for all passengers, not just those lucky enough to snag a window seat. It travels to the 3030m Klein Titlis peak, the region’s highest lifted point, where a multi-level top station holds a gift shop, café, and ice cream store.
Wander outside and before choosing a descent – anything from intermediate to off-piste glacier runs– take in the breathtaking 360 degree Swiss alpine panorama from the huge viewing platform – and have your photo taken with the life-size cardboard cut-outs of Bollywood stars. These are a hangover from the days when Switzerland was the location of choice for Bollywood films. While it’s not such a popular place any more for movie-making, Switzerland remains one of India’s most popular travel destinations, hence the cardboard cut outs designed for happy snaps are staying for now.
Another unusual entertaining thing to do up here is test your mettle on Europe’s highest suspension bridge, which runs along one side of the viewing platform. Bouncing along to the other end means placing great faith in modern engineering, and doing so delivers the thrill of hovering effortlessly two kilometres above the valley below.
Descending from Stand top station are several mainly intermediate runs that lead to the gondola mid-station, or either of two chairlifts. Or keep descending and stop off at Trubsee’s large and rather lovely self-service cafeteria to tuck into delectable meats prepared in the smoker and, if sunny, recline on the outdoor terrace with a full view of the slopes.
Beyond the cafeteria, the slope leads to the Trubsee-Hopper chairlift which crosses its namesake, the 1800m-high lake. In winter it’s snow covered and in summer, filled with boats. Look for the jetty poking out of the snow. Right before the Hopper lift is a snow park area with snowmobiling and an Igloo hotel, where visitors after a novel alpine experience can spend a night on the mountain.
The Hopper lift runs passengers in both directions and is the link between the main face and the opposite ridge where two chairlifts access Jochpass, Jochstock and mostly intermediate runs. Below Jochstock is the long, winding enjoyable home run to town that almost everybody takes at day’s end.
Adventurous advanced skiers and those who love their off-piste will find their nirvana on Titlis’ famous off-piste extreme run the Laub. Vast and imposing, the Laub is a near perfectly continuous 35-degree, 1200m-long slope found on skier’s right of the ski area boundary line and easily visible from the Titlis Xpress. Watch people descend while riding the gondola, and then hear their tales at après ski that evening.
Engelberg village is as funky and fun as it is steeped in medieval history. Strolling around reveals an eclectic collection of establishments: a regular supermarket, the wonderfully bizarre art deco Hotel Terrace, a backpacker lodge, cinema, grand five star hotel, a lively Mexican bar/restaurant called the Yucatan, and Kafi, a colorfully decorated coffee shop where the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party would not be out of place. Kafi also doubles as a gift store everything from the chairs to cushions to cups and saucers are for sale. Kafi is also an après ski venue thanks to its range of kirsch, schnapps and spirits listed alongside the milkshakes and sandwiches.
Just as enjoyable is visiting the Cheese Showroom at the monastery. This is a must, especially for lovers of cheese. They will be in heaven. All variations of the delectable dairy product, of which the Swiss are masters, are laid out on platters for tasting. Cheese room tours are offered capped off by cheese making sessions where visitors can craft a block themselves to take home (but only to your hotel and not back to Australia due to our quarantine laws).
Central Engelberg is pedestrian only with plenty of atmospheric bars, cosy restaurants and late night venues plus delis and patisseries selling mouth-watering fare. The Ramada is one of the most popular mid-range hotels with a sensational breakfast buffet.
Getting to Engelberg-Titlis
Fly to Zurich, then just over one hour train trip from the airport www.swissair.com
by train: Travel directly from Lucerne to Engelberg on the “Zentralbahn” railway. Travel time: approx. 45 minutes from Lucerne, 4 hours from Geneva and 1 hour and 50 minutes from Zurich and Basel
By car: Follow the A2 and take the Stans Süd exit before continuing along the main road to Engelberg. Car park next to the valley station.
Tip: prices drop sharply after first week of January to before Carnival starts February
Engelberg-Titlis Mountain stats
• Summit 3328m, vertical 1970m
• 6m snowfall
• 23 trails longest 12km; terrain 33% beginner, 57% intermediate, 15% advanced/expert
• 2 parks
• 21 lifts including rotating gondola, 6 gondolas & 8 chairs
Check out more Swiss resorts & the Glacier Express
• Jungfrau Region (Grindelwald / Wengen / MÜrren)
• Villars / Gryon / Les Diablerets / Glacier 3000
• Verbier / 4-Vallées
• Take a shot at the Murren Inferno race.
• Glacier Express
Check out a local’s view here